Mar 9, 2013 5:46 PM
Michigan State junior starter David Garner turned in a dominating pitching performance and Anthony Cheky hit the go-ahead homer in the third, leading the Spartans to a 6-1 win over No. 7 Kentucky to even the series, on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
A 2012 Cape Cod League All-Star, Garner (3-0) cruised through the Wildcats lineup, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth inning, retiring the first 11 hitters he faced before A.J. Reed drew a full-count walk in the fourth. A former draft pick of our high school by the Cincinnati Reds, Garner worked 8.1 innings against a UK team that entered the week leading the NCAA in scoring offense, allowing four hits and one run, walking one and striking out six.
Kentucky (12-2) had its season-long nine-game win streak snapped with the loss, which will set up the rubber match on Sunday with the Spartans, a 37-win and NCAA Tournament team in 2012. UK also suffered its first home loss in a 15-game span, dating back to 2012, as Michigan State plated a run in the third on Cheky's homer, and added a two-run frame in the sixth. The homer allowed by the UK staff to Cheky was its first surrendered in a staggering span of 290 consecutive plate appearances.
UK senior starter Jerad Grundy (3-1) turned in a strong outing in his fourth start of the year, suffering the hard-luck loss. He worked 5.2 innings, allowing six hits and three runs, walking one and striking out four.
Freshman lefty Ryne Combs came on in the sixth inning of a two-on, two-out jam, allowing a runner to score with a pair of singles surrendered in the frame. Combs worked 1.2 innings, allowing three hits and one unearned run. Freshman Tyler Cox took over in the eighth, getting an out and allowing two hits and two unearned runs. Freshman Zach Strecker got the final four outs of the game without allowing a baserunner.
The Wildcats got four hits in the game, including two from junior third baseman Paul McConkey, who broke up the no-hitter in the fifth and then the shutout in the eighth with his first career homer. Jeff Boehm also added a hit in the eighth and Max Kuhn singled in the ninth to stretch his streak of reaching base safely in each game this year.
After Garner exited in the ninth inning with one out, Michigan State lefty Jeff Kinley came on in relief to get the final two outs of the game and working around a fielding error.
The series will conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with Dick Gabriel voicing the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM and online at UKathletics.com. UK will send All-America junior southpaw Corey Littrell (1-0) to face off with Michigan State sophomore right-hander Mick VanVossen (0-0, 6.30).
Michigan State (6-6) took the lead in the third inning, as Cheky connected on his first homer of the year, skying it over the fence in rightfield.
The Spartans added to their lead and chased Grundy from the game in the sixth, as Cheky and Ryan Richardson singled to leadoff, with Cheky scoring on Jordan Keur's sacrifice fly. After a two-out walk to Blaise Salter, UK turned to the lefty Combs to face left-handed hitter Ryan Krill. Krill singled to load the bases and Joel Fisher then singled home a run with an infield single.
MSU added three runs in the top of the eighth inning, taking a 6-0 lead. Keur singled to third base to leadoff, taking second on a groundout. Salter then chopped a grounder to third that went as an error. After a strikeout for the second out, Fisher doubled down the leftfield line, scoring two runs. Justin Hovis then singled up the middle to score two more runs.
UK got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth inning, as McConkey cranked a solo homer over the rightfield fence, his first career bomb.
GAME NOTES: J.T. Riddle made his team-leading 80th consecutive start ... Lucas Witt recorded his first outfield assist of the year and the sixth of his career in the first inning ... After Michigan State homered in the third inning it snapped a streak of 290 consecutive plate appearances UK had not allowed a homer ... UK fell to 11-2 in day games ... UK's nine-game winning streak was snapped, its longest since a 22-gamer in 2012 ... UK falls to 2-1 now in its blue and white uniform combination ... UK's streak of 15 straight home wins was snapped ... The all-time series between the two schools is now tied, 2-2 ... UK suffered just its third loss to a B1G team in its last 15 meetings ... Paul McConkey hit his first career homer in the eighth inning ... Max Kuhn had reached base safely in all 14 games this year.